They are still assessing.
Obviously, the damage to the environment is greater in some places than in others. The Louisiana marshes were hit hard; last month, a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit against BP for violating provisions of the Endangered Species Act. That is one more to add to the many suits that will appear on the docket in months, even years, to come.
Along the Alabama Gulf Coast, things are, to put it mildly, murky. Although government and industry reports tell of the environment cleaning itself and paint an optimistic picture of the future of the state’s inlets and marshes, coastal residents continue to report oil in the water around Cotton Bayou, Bear Point and Perdido Pass.
Researchers from the University of South Florida, using high-powered ultraviolet light, have found evidence of an “accumulation of petroleum products and dispersants” on Gulf Coast beaches that appear, to the naked eye, to be clean and safe. Some have even suggested that BP cleanup crews are adding to the problem because when they scoop bits of tar out of the water, their nets break the dispersants from the oil and allow it to flow free onto the beach.
Despite all the money that has been set aside to pay “legitimate” claims and, as BP consistently promises, “make it right” — and despite federal assurances that the process is being speeded up — less than half of the filed claims have been paid.
Likewise, unemployment remains high in Alabama fishing communities such as Bayou La Batre, where some fishermen are actually scared to go out because of what they fear beyond the breakers.
There also is lingering concern that what they catch will be harmful to those who eat it.
Obviously, BP and those government officials in charge have not “made it right.” That realization stings, as does news this week that BP has paid $3.35 million to the law firm of Kenneth Feinberg, who is in charge of the $20 billion BP compensation account. What’s more, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, on the direction of President Obama, has declined Gov. Bob Riley’s request for a meeting between the president and the four other Gulf Coast governors to discuss BP matters.
Those who want the Gulf restored should remain undaunted. They should continue to call for a combination of more careful testing and advanced cleanup. An independent analysis of Gulf food is a must. Government and company assessments, while they may be accurate, do not meet the trust requirement so necessary on the Coast.
There is no excuse for it taking so long to process claims and cut checks. Winter is near and the summer income that carried coastal people through cold months didn’t happen. As a result, some businesses will close and not reopen — unless help comes quickly.